ARCHBISHOP ANTHONY (MEDVEDEFF, +2000)
"Enter, All of You, Into the Joy of Your
(Archbishop Anthony's Final Paschal Epistle)
From the Editors:
We bring to your attention the last Paschal appeal to the San Francisco
flock written by His Eminence, the ever-memorable Archbishop Anthony
of Western America and San Francisco, the kindly elder beloved by
all (+10/23 September 2000). We are providing this text to mark
the fourth anniversary of his blessed repose. Let us pray, brethren
and sisters, for the repose of his radiant soul, and that the Lord
may raise up new pillars for our support. And we believe that He
will indeed raise them up, for the Church of Christ is ever alive,
and the Lord always guides those who worthily do and support the
work of God.
Christ Is Risen!
fellow pastors, brethren, sisters and children in Christ, and all
who read or listen to this Paschal greeting: "Enter, all of
you, into the joy of your Lord" (St John Chrysostom's paraphrase
of Mt. 25: 21).
I must admit
that, this year, while approaching the final weeks of the Great
Fast and keenly, as never before, reviewing all the sins I have
committed throughout my life against the background of the helplessness
of old age I am experiencing these days, I grew extremely despondent;
yet the grace of the approaching Pascha has saved me. I know not
when, but I reached a turning point in my soul.
It is growing
light, and I conjure up the garden of Joseph of Arimathea, and the
Apostles Peter and John hastening to the burial cave.
Glory to Thee,
O Lord! Outrunning the much younger John, Peter, who was tormented
by everything that had happened from the hour of the Lord's betrayal
and by the bitter tears he shed for denying Christ the Savior thrice
out of fear of the Jews, reached the tomb first.
O Lord our
God, what courage, what renewal of strength is imparted by the forgiveness
of Christ, which is granted with such divine goodness!
And the Apostle
and Evangelist Mark, the disciple and traveling companion of Peter,
bears witness that through the angel the myrrh-bearing women were
instructed to tell of the Resurrection to the disciples of Christ
and to Peter. The holy Apostle Paul likewise maintains that after
the Resurrection Christ "appeared also to Cephas" (that
is, to Peter), and afterwards to the twelve (I Cor. 15: 4). The
senior apostles also confirmed this to the holy Apostles Luke and
Cleopas on their return from Emmaus (Lk. 24: 34).
But let us
now prepare for our own radiant Paschal Matins.
arrivals of the holy myrrh-bearing women, who desired to anoint
the body of Christ with precious ointments, are represented by the
procession we make around the church. And the invisible world also
takes part in this, as we attest when we chant: "The angels
in the heavens hymn Thy Resurrection, O Christ God..."
our spiritual renewal is depicted by the ending of this same sticheron:
"and vouchsafe also that we on earth may glorify Thee with
a pure heart."
prayerfully, in front of the church. There we hear: "Christ
is risen!" And the reply: "Indeed, He is risen!"
Then the doors are opened, we enter the church, and there, as one
church writer expresses it, "The whole church [that is, those
present in the church] is transformed into His Holy Church,"
into our oneness with Christ, which the tenth article of the Symbol
of Faith teaches.
On the right-hand
side of the church [the Cathedral of the Joy of All Who Sorrow,
in San Francisco--ed.], under a canopy, is the shrine containing
the holy relics of the founder of this Cathedral, our great man
of prayer, the holy hierarch John of Shanghai and San Francisco.
He is truly alive in spirit and is praying for us.
In the church
there are those who remember how he served on Pascha when, his face
suffused with faith and love, he would perform the censing with
the triple paschal candles, moving rapidly around the church, crying
out "Christ is risen!"
Those who are
younger will tell later generations of how they witnessed the vast
congregation assembled for the glorification of the holy hierarch
More and more
pilgrims will arrive in San Francisco, not only from the various
dioceses in North America, but from other parts of the world as
And Saint John
will, as it were, repeat with us the meaning of the paschal hymns:
"Let us purify our senses," "Let us forgive all things
with the Resurrection," and finally, "Receive ye the Body
of Christ; taste ye of the fountain of immortality" (Pascha
Canon, Odes I and IX; sticheron and koinonicon of Pascha). The holy
hierarch, a tireless man of prayer and speedy helper of those who
pray to him, lived by this commandment.
Let us maintain
that most beautiful Russian custom of the paschal divine service;
for Holy Russia gave us Saint John. It is his legacy to love it
and labor for it.
Even in Russia,
Archbishop Antony of Kharkov (later Metropolitan of Kiev and Galicia),
came to love the future Saint John, and having consecrated him to
the episcopacy, he sent him from Serbia to Shanghai, as "a
little bit of my own heart."
Serbia was the homeland of our saint's remote ancestors. Serbia
is a country of great long-suffering, which has encountered the
hatred of the so-called West and of NATO. It was during the season
of Pascha last year that they began the violent bombardment of Serbia
and its province of Kosovo, which is covered with ancient holy places.
And missiles were launched mockingly, with the blasphemous slogan
painted on them: "Happy Easter."
I shall conclude
this paschal epistle (possibly my last) with a call for you all
to pray for the salvation and renewal by grace, through faith and
piety, of the fraternal peoples of Russia and Serbia.
in his own native village, Lelich, the Serbian Chrysostom, the theologian,
archpastor and confessor, Nicholas, Bishop first of Okhrid, and
later of Zhicha, has already been locally glorified and awaits a
fitting Church-wide canonization.
He was a friend
of Saint John. It was in his diocese that Father John (Maximovich)
labored, together with the famous Father Justin (Popovich), as an
instructor and teacher in the local seminary. Saint Nicholas was
the first, in both print and word, to declare the holiness of Father
John (Maximovich). And after exile to Germany and imprisonment,
when he was living in America, he asked our Synod to hasten the
canonization of Saint John of Kronstadt.
One must say
that the persecution of Orthodox believers in Serbia reminds us
very much of the persecution of the Church in our homeland. In both
countries the entire land was sanctified by the blood of new-martyrs.
Bishop Nicholas of Zhicha composed, in the Serbian language, a "Service
for the Holy Martyrs of Serbia Who Have Suffered from the Time of
Prince Lazarus to This Day." This service begins with a sticheron
which I will here translate loosely:
down from the heavens, the holy hierarchs of Serbia spake to the
souls of the new-martyrs as to their own descendants, as they went
to greet them: 'O excellent athletes, grieve no more! But join chorus
with us in the kingdom of heaven!'"
O holy new-martyrs
and confessors of the fraternal peoples of Russia and Serbia, pray
to God for us! Ye are alive, and--God willing--your people will